What’s a Girl to Do?

“An exciting career in a gleaming skyscraper–intrigues with a dashing stranger–or marriage to a regular guy? What’s a girl to do?”

 This is the question posted on the cover of our class text, Skyscraper and is the major issue brought about by the text. In my mind I hear the voice of my high school English teacher saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but somehow I cannot help but to judge this book by the question on its cover. I cannot keep from feeling that this question is somewhat outdated, at least by our media. I am sure that this book was controversial in its day and age and by no means do I mean to imply that the issue of marriage/homemaking versus working is not a dilemma faced by women these days because it might very well be a choice that I may have to make. However, the concept of a woman working and holding a full time job simultaneously does not seem to be uncommon anymore. It is interesting to me to look at the way that this book presents a woman in the work force as opposed to the way our media, books, and films present this idea in our post-modern society.

In Skyscraper Lynn is made to feel that she cannot have both her job and a family. It seems that most of the society and characters in the text expect and want her to marry. This opinion seems to be verbalized when Tom says, “It’s a shrieking shame that pretty girls have to work” (22). He further indicates his implied belief that a woman should marry and stay home when he questions Lynn about loving her job and seems surprised that she really loves her job (26-27). His pushing her to marry him in chapter eight of the book just goes to show that most “respectable” men expected women to marry and settle down. The reason that I say that “respectable” men expected “respectable” women to marry and settle down is because the other side of the argument is also made through the character of David Dwight. Dwight tries to persuade Lynn not to marry by telling her of the hardships she will face if she works and is married. Dwight tells Lynn not to “love in a walkup” where “lovers trying to budget love the way they budget finances, with little wives working, and coming home disheartened and tired, with bills to think about and a run in the last pair of stockings, with grouchy husbands and fatigued wives, with the smell of cabbage and laundry soap, with babies crying…” (91). The way that Dwight presents a married woman working makes it seem that it cannot be accomplished well, if at all.

Lynn’s boss, Sarah also helps depict the idea that women cannot work, be married, and do both well; however, rather than promoting the seemingly commonly held social norm that Lynn and women in general should marry and stay in the home, Sarah tries to encourage Lynn to work and not marry. The text clues us into this idea by giving us Sarah’s thoughts concerning Lynn moving up the ladder when it says, “She [Sarah] was in fact inperceptibly grooming Lynn Harding for her own job someday. If she doesn’t go off the deep end and marry some young idiot first and ruin her business future,” (18). She later tells Lynn that she would hope that she did not marry Tom and become “one Mrs. Dental-Equipment Wilkins” (20).

It is clearly presented throughout this text that Lynn really has a dilemma. Society seems to be telling her that she cannot have her cake of marriage and family and eat it too with work. It seems so far that she will have to choose one or the other. Nowadays just the opposite seems to be presented by the media. In our movies and books, it seems the concept that a woman should have a career and a family is the ideal, and is an ideal that can be achieved practically. With movies like I Don’t Know How She Does It the media and our society’s perception of married women in the workforce seems to have changed drastically since the idealized June Cleavers of the 1950s. The dilemma that Lynn faces in Skyscraper can still be a valid issue with women today, but it is not seen as being as nearly as serious of a decision. If a woman wants to stay home that seems to be fine. If she wants to work and focus on her career, that is fine too. If she wants to do both she certainly can. What used to be a seemingly life-and-death decision–to stay home or work–is now just a matter of preference.

Sources:

Skyscraper, Faith Baldwin

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1 Comment

Filed under City Cultures

One response to “What’s a Girl to Do?

  1. I think you’ve brought together all of the different characters’ perspectives on Lynn in a very clear way. What I’m not sure about is how out of date this conflict is. Isn’t the whole issue behind “I Don’t Know How She Does It” that it’s really difficult to be a good wife, mother, and businesswoman? I’ll also be interested to know what you think about the book’s message of marriage vs. career once you’ve read the whole thing.

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